Special occasions don’t have to be planned ahead
By Ronda Rich
I never knew my friend’s Aunt Elsie, but still this woman, a stranger to me, will never be forgotten by me.
Though I never saw her face or heard her voice, the parable she authored always will be vivid and deeply ingrained in my mind.
Aunt Elsie died recently, having lived to be 81.
Her grandest adventure happened more than 30 years ago when she had gone to see a cousin in Memphis.
They visited Graceland, had tea at the Peabody Hotel and shopped at the city’s finest store.
Passing by the lingerie department, Aunt Elsie saw something that took her breath away: A long, flowing white peignoir set trimmed in matching lace and ribbons.
It looked like something that Grace Kelly would have worn in a movie.
Aunt Elsie was, according to her niece, a good Methodist woman who taught Sunday school and regularly baked goodwill cakes.
She was a plain, salt-of-the-earth woman who preferred sensible shoes, support stockings and flannel gowns.
But that fancy negligee caught her eye and, in a moment of unexplained weakness, she bought it.
For the rest of her life, she adored that gown, which she stored in a cedar chest at the foot of her bed.
But she never wore it.
Never took the tags off. Instead, she spent the next 30 years saving it for a "special occasion." Sometimes, when she was feeling blue, she took the gown out of the cedar chest to admire it.
When she died, her daughter realized that her mama had one last chance to wear her beloved peignoir set.
That’s how Aunt Elsie, the practical Methodist, came to be buried in a white chiffon gown and robe fit for a Hollywood queen and stunned the other Methodists as well as the Baptists who came for the viewing.
Somehow, I suspect that wasn’t the special occasion she had been waiting for. Time just got away from her.
No one will find anything beautiful in my closet that hasn’t been worn. If I love it, I wear it.
There have been times, though, that I haven’t bought something because it was impractical and I wondered, "But where will I wear it?" I won’t do that again. If a beautiful item speaks to my heart, I’ll buy it and then find a special occasion.
Shortly after hearing this story, a pair of red patent leather boots caught my eye in a store. They glimmered like a ruby in the midst of black coal. They were so gorgeous that women stopped to admire them as I pranced around in them.
"They go perfectly with what you’re wearing," one rightly pointed out.
"I’ll wear them out," I declared as I paid. "I’m celebrating. I got a good parking place."
Special occasions, you see, aren’t always divinely delivered. Sometimes, they have to be created.
Copyright ©2004 The Times.